Many families in Mississippi, one of the states where ChildFund works, live below the poverty line, presenting obstacles to children achieving happy and fulfilling lives. In 2013, the federal poverty level for a family of five is a yearly income of $27,570. As of January 2011, about 31 percent of the children living in Mississippi were considered poor, and included in that number were 14 percent living in extreme poverty, according to the Children's Defense Fund. This means Mississippi has the highest child poverty rate in the nation.
By living in these conditions, children are more likely to face other challenges throughout their lives, such as neglect and abuse, as well as insufficient access to the education they need to succeed.
Although there are many factors that can contribute to child abuse and neglect, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that many researchers feel there is a correlation between poverty and child mistreatment. Mississippi has historically seen both high poverty and child abuse rates.
In 2011, the Children's Defense Fund reported that 7,883 Mississippi children were victims of abuse or neglect, which works out to a case of abuse or neglect every hour. Some children in Mississippi are unable to live with their biological parents for a variety of reasons. In 2011, about 3,320 children were in foster care, and about 50,130 grandparents across the state raised their grandchildren.
Children who are raised in poverty are also statistically less likely to finish high school than their peers, frequently because they are forced to get a full-time job, or they lack crucial support from their families. In Mississippi, about 64 percent of freshmen in high school will graduate, according to the Children's Defense Fund.
And even students who graduate may not attain the skills they need to succeed in college or the work force. In the fourth grade, 78 percent of students in the state are unable to read or do math at grade level. By the eighth grade, 81 percent of students cannot read at grade level, while 85 percent lack the appropriate math skills, the Children's Defense Fund reports.
ChildFund is working in Mississippi to fight child poverty and ensure that children in need have the opportunity to live healthy and happy lives. Last year, we helped equip the North Delta Youth Development Center in Lambert, Mississippi, with new books, educational tools and Internet access, giving local children a safe place to learn and play. We also helped the center create a local Parent Education and Mentoring Project.
By providing Mississippi residents with this type of support, we have helped them escape poverty and move on to do amazing things. For example, Shauntay Hinton, 2002's Miss USA and an actress featured on shows like "Heroes" and "Criminal Minds," was once a sponsored child in ChildFund's Mississippi programs.
If you would like to help children like Shauntay live out their dreams, consider sponsoring a child in the U.S. For just $35 per month, you can help a child in your own backyard receive access to the education, health care and support services they need to succeed.